It was a superb day, lovely weather, nice music on the ground and with lovely cheer leaders colouring the atmosphere, a day worth remembering.
First thing I want to say is, I have watched a fair number of Twenty20 games between County sides, but after watching Monday's game between England and Australia, I fully agree with Mr Greg Chappell's prediction that Twenty20 is going to be the next big thing in cricket. It is not a question of if, but when!
And considering this, India is not exactly being wise in being apprehensive about this version of the game. Pity is, India has such a lovely team that it would take to Twenty20 like the proverbial duck to water.
Coming to game itself, England won the toss, and expectedly, elected to bat first. Wicketkeeper-batsman Jones gave England a flier of a start by hitting four boundaries of Lee and scoring 19 with four boundaries before perishing to robotic McGrath. Flintoff came at number three and as soon as he came, Trescothick became the dominant partner and the two added 21 runs, (Flintoff only 6), before Flintoff miscued a pull of Kasprowicz and was smartly caught by Symonds.
In came the local Hampshire batsman, the mercurial Kevin Pietersen and in his cavalier style started plundering the Aussie attack. Barring McGrath, none was spared and in just 19 balls, Pietersen scored 34 runs including a huge six of Kasprowicz besides three boundaries. In a masterstroke, Ponting brought on Michael Clarke and Pietersen perished trying to loft Clarke out of the ground and was well caught by Hayden at long-on.
Kevin Pietersen was replaced by skipper Michael Vaughan, (V V S Laxman of England). Funnily, just as he walked in, my grumpy elderly neighbour grunted, "Why the hell they include him in this sort of game. He won't last more than 10 balls I bet". Well, Vaughan didn't exactly exceed my neighbour's expectations and lasted for exactly one ball as he scooped a ball to Ponting to be dismissed for nought.
Vaughan was replaced by Paul Collingwood, who is such a natural when it comes to Limited Overs cricket. Together with Trescothick, Collingwood swept, slogged, drove and ran hard to post a brilliant 46 in just 26 balls with five fours and two huge sixes. The way Collingwood toyed with every Australian bowler, once again confirmed that he should be an integral part of English ODI team.
Andrew Strauss made 18 runs in 16 balls and his only boundary was an outrageously breathtaking one when he moved well outside his off-stump and hooked a Gillespie express over deep fine-leg. Soon he attempted a reverse sweep off Gillespie and mercifully did not connect. Maybe Gillespie would have really lost his cool had he indeed connected! Twenty20 definitely makes the batsmen attempt weirdest of shots.
England finished with 179 off their 20 overs and although a record score for this ground for this version of game, one felt a little short for Australia's powerful batting line-up!
How wrong! England played like a team possessed and Australian hopes lasted till only 16 balls before redoubtable Gough struck!
Gough was the champion bowler of the match. He himself says he is born to battle Australia and considering that it is his last Ashes series, he will give it a go for sure.
He removed dangerous Gilchrist and Hayden in successive balls and everyone including Symonds, expected a yorker as his hat-trick delivery. Instead, he bowled a nasty, short one that shook the elbow of poor Symonds. And Gough went up to him and gave him a few words to add insult to the injury!
Darren sure was a fired up man tonight. Both Gilchrist and Hayden, were caught by colourful Pietersen and thereafter it was a total landslide. Clarke, Symonds, Hussey, Ponting and Martyn followed and Australia were soon tottering at seven down for 31. Gillespie and Lee only delayed the inevitable and dragged on the game and helped Australia limp up to 79, with outcome never in doubt.
J Lewis took four wickets, but one genuinely felt he is quite short of international class. Gough, Harmison, Flintoff and Collingwood were awesome as far as bowling is concerned and gave a very neat and professional performance.
It was general public which had to choose the Man of the Match by SMS and teletext and perhaps local Hampshire people voted jealously and helped Kevin Pietersen win the Man of the Match for his quick fire 34 besides three nice catches. One really felt for Collingwood.
It has been a great morale boosting win for England and just the sort of result that would boost English morale and hurt the Aussie pride to set up an electrifying ODI series in the coming days.
A nasty bouncer from Andrew Flintoff crashed into the helmet of Brett Lee and the sound heard across the ground, may just have been the signal of a full blooded war to come in the coming days and months.
England has managed to land the first blow. Does that make them the favourite for the forthcoming One-dayers? Not quite one would say. As I see it, first these two will clash in triangular NatWest series four times and then there will be three matches purely between Australia and England in NatWest Challenge. So seven ODIs in all!
My most optimistic guess is Australia winning the series 4-2, with one game being rained off!
Tailpiece: One very fascinating aspect of Twenty20 is the FREE HIT rule. Every time a bowler bowls a no-ball, the next ball-the batsman is allowed a free hit i.e., the batsman can't be out bowled, LBW and caught! It was good fun to see Trescothick and Pietersen punching gloves in celebration as and when they got a FREE HIT!